Thursday, November 7, 2013

Tempeh Meat Sauce

Did I mention that I'm nuts about tempeh? Why, why, why didn't I realize how yummy it was two years ago when I had so little to eat? I'm convinced that there's nothing it can't accomplish in a meal. I plan on forcing it on my in-laws over the Thanksgiving holidays and if they eat it, I'll know it's the miracle worker I think it is.

Even though it may seem like a big to-do, what with the steaming and sauteing, preparing tempeh always feels like an easy, quick after-work meal to me. Maybe it's because it doesn't require a lot of hover-cooking (you can plop it on to steam and leave it). Maybe it's because it doesn't require any cleaning--it seems like everything I cook, has to be pre-cleaned... vegetables, chicken, beans, etc. Whatever the reason, tempeh is an easy meal for me. You can pair it with sauteed veggies and rice, or you can make it even simpler, and mix it up with your favorite jar of marinara sauce. Using the tempeh sausage crumble recipe from The PPK, the possibilities are endless!

Tempeh Meat Sauce (4 servings)
1 jar favorite marinara (I prefer San Marzano brand marinara)
2 cups vegetable stock
enough water to cover tempeh in skillet
8 oz package tempeh (I prefer the kind with flax because it's gluten-free)
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp dried sage
2 tbsp olive oil
4 servings gluten-free pasta (I prefer corn pasta)

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions, while also doing the following
2. Cut the tempeh into minced to diced-sized pieces; it doesn't have to be exact. You can crumble it with your hands if you prefer
3. Place the tempeh in a skillet, cover with liquid (I like to use a combination of vegetable broth and water), and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium, cover, and steam for 15 minutes
4. Drain the tempeh and remove it from the skillet
5. Heat oil over medium heat in the skillet and then add tempeh back to the pan, add the seasonings, and stir to combine
6. Cook the tempeh until slightly brown (about 5 minutes)
7. Stir in the pasta sauce and cook until hot
8. Serve over pasta with your favorite vegan or non-vegan Parmesan cheese

This work by Chassity Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License (2013)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Buffalo Tempeh Ranch Salad

I love chicken wings, but I hate the idea of all the poor chickens that were killed to give me those wings and I loathe cooking them. Imagine my delight when I tried this recipe from Post Punk Kitchen and knew that I'd never have to make chicken wings again. I loved this dish so much that I've begun an affair with tempeh and endeavor to put it in at least two dishes a week.

Even though, like tofu, tempeh is made from soy, it is nothing like tofu in taste or texture. Tempeh is fermented, which means that it's great for your digestive system, similar to yogurt. You do have to be sure to steam tempeh first though, before using it in any dish. I haven't tried it, but have read that without steaming it, it can be overly chewy and quite bitter. A simple broth, water, or beer steam will prepare the tempeh for any dish, but if you want to jazz it up to where the most avid meat eater won't be able to say no to it, give it a quick saute after the steaming with some oil and your favorite seasonings. If you dice it prior to steaming, you have perfect sausage crumbles.

Buffalo Tempeh Ranch Salad (4 servings)
Ingredients for tempeh:
1 package tempeh (I prefer flax tempeh, which is gluten-free)
enough liquid (water, broth, or combination of) to cover tempeh is skillet
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp hot wing seasoning
1/4 cup hot wing sauce

Ingredients for salad:
3 romaine hearts, chopped
ranch dressing, bottled or seasoning pack (I prefer to make my own from a seasoning pack so that I can control the fat content and consistency, or you can use the PPK's recipe for a vegan version)
1/2 seedless cucumber, sliced
2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
extra: if you want that extra something, crumble feta cheese into your dressing

1. Slice the tempeh into slim pieces (I like mine in two-bite pieces)
2. Place the tempeh in a skillet, cover with liquid (I like to use a combination of vegetable broth and water), and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium, cover, and steam for 15 minutes
3. Drain the tempeh and remove it from the skillet
4. Heat oil over medium heat in the skillet and then add tempeh back to the pan, allowing it to cook on each side for 3-5 minutes or until slightly brown
5. Sprinkle tempeh with the hot wing seasoning, shake the tempeh around in the skillet, and cook for a few minutes
6. Reduced the heat to low-medium and add the hot wing sauce, cooking for 2-3 minutes
7. Serve over salad ingredients and top with dressing

This work by Chassity Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License (2013)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Balsamic-Glazed Roasted Chicken

Balsamic-Glazed Roasted Chicken (4 servings)
4-5 lb whole chicken (discard innards)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp kosher salt
3 tablespoons herbes de provence (3 tbsp dried marjoram, 3 tbsp dried thyme, 3 tbsp dried savory, 1 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp dried rosemary, 1/2 tsp dried sage, 1/2 tsp fennel or dill seeds... use what you have on hand, don't worry about having the exact combination)
1 large navel orange, juiced and zested, quarters reserved
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
10 garlic cloves (4 minced, 6 peeled and left whole)
2 celery stalks (chunked)
4 large carrots (peeled and chunked)
1 lb potatoes (chunked)
1 Vidalia onion (1/2 sliced, 1/2 chunked)

1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees
2. Wash the chicken, pat dry with paper towels, and then allow to air dry while continuing on to steps 3 and 4
3. Whisk the vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, herbes de provence, orange juice and zest
4. Place the carrots, celery, sliced onion, and potatoes into the bottom of a Dutch oven
5. Stuff the chicken with 2 of the reserved orange quarters, the rosemary, the whole garlic gloves, and the onion chunks, and then place the chicken on top of the vegetables in the Dutch oven
6. Slowly pour the glaze over each inch of the chicken
7. Put the chicken in the oven, reduce the temperature to 400 degrees, and roast uncovered for 30 minutes
8. Tent the chicken to discourage over browning and cook until the thickest part of the thigh is 175 degrees; I cooked a 6 lb chicken and it took about 90 minutes for this step
9. Remove the tent, increase the temperature to 500 degrees, and cook an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the chicken has reached the desired level of crispiness
10. Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes before slicing and serving

This work by Chassity Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License (2013)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Slow Cooker Twice Baked Potatoes

Until recently, I've never used my slow cooker for anything except pot roast and vegetables. Ridiculous, right? I've been trying to change that by adding a few new slow cooker recipes each month. I've done chicken breasts for tacos and pulled barbecue, but it could also be used for chicken salad, chicken soup... any dish that requires shredded chicken. And it was way easier and much tastier than boiling or baking. I tried a roasted chicken recipe for a whole chicken, but it wasn't nearly as good as an oven-roasted chicken, so I won't make it again. Same with the chicken teriyaki... not a success. But for baked potatoes, I plan on using my slow cooker from now on.

I love baked potatoes of any kind... gold, russet, sweet, etc., but I don't love the hour long wait while they bake in the oven. And you can forget about microwaving them--this process leaves them tasteless.

Slow Cooker Twice Baked Potatoes (4 servings)
4 russet potatoes
Sea salt
Cooking spray or olive oil
Condiments: salt, butter, sour cream (soy or regular), cheddar cheese (veggie shreds or regular), chives, Morningstar bacon (contains gluten, optional), garlic powder, onion powder, dill weed

1. Wash and scrub the outside of each potato and pierce each with a fork multiple times
2. Coat each potato with cooking spray (or olive oil) and sea salt
3. Cook in a slow cooker on low for 6-7 hours
4. Remove the potatoes from the slow cooker, cut each down the middle of the top side, being careful not to cut all the way through
5. Scoop the potato insides into a bowl
6. Combine the potato insides with the above condiments (to taste) and then place the potatoes back in the slow cooker
7. Add a little more cheddar to the top of each potato, cover with the lid, and cook on high for 20 minutes

Serve with an additional dollop of butter and sour cream

This work by Chassity Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License (2013)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Slow Cooker Cajun Red Beans and Rice

Unlike my original red bean recipe, this one requires no checkups, which makes it great for a weekend recipe where you have a lot of household chores to do, but don't want to sacrifice a home cooked meal at the end of the day.

Slow Cooker Cajun Red Beans and Rice (6 servings)
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
12 oz dry red kidney beans (I used a combo packet of beans and seasoning... I highly recommend it! Bayou Cajun Red Bean Soup)
1 white onion (cut into slivers)
1 small green bell pepper (diced)
3 celery stalks (diced)
5 garlic cloves (minced)
1 tbsp liquid smoke
1/2 package smoked turkey sausage (thinly sliced)
Seasonings: see Bayou Cajun Red Bean Soup seasoning mix
1 cup uncooked rice (cook on stove according to package directions once red beans are done)

1. Combine all ingredients (stock - seasonings) in a slow cooker
2. Cook on high for 5 hours
3. If the liquid is too thin after 5 hours, remove the lid, stir, and cook an additional 30 minutes without the lid to thicken
4. Serve over rice or cornbread

This work by Chassity Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License (2013)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Vegan and Gluten Free Friendly Places

Update: Added Burton's Grill and Domino's

Virginia Beach, VA
Places to stay:
Beach Spa Bed & Breakfast; not only will you feel relaxed after taking a rainfall shower, but the owner will go to great lengths to prepare you a vegan-gluten free breakfast every day. I even tried to convince him that it was unnecessary to make a fuss over me--I was content to have fresh fruit and coffee, but he saw it as an exciting challenge. My most memorable breakfast was buckwheat flour and coconut pancakes covered in warm pecan maple syrup with a side of fruit and fresh juice and coffee, which was prepared just for me with ingredients purchased just for me. I can't say enough good things about this place!

Charlottesville, VA

Bonefish Grill, the Bonefish menu is pretty similar everywhere; I've been to locations in Charlottesville, Glen Allen, and Williamsburg, VA and I've never been disappointed. I always order grilled Longfin Tilapia with a house salad, green beans, and asparagus. The house salad, which already comes free of cheese and croutons and is served ice cold, is topped with tomato slices, sunflower seeds, olives, and hearts of palm. It's the most amazing salad I've ever had at a restaurant. I look like I've been starved every time I eat it because it is so good. The food is always perfect at each location and the service is always spectacular. I feel special every time I eat there! I never would've eaten at a place like this before I got meat allergies, but it was almost worth it because of how awesome Bonefish is. It's a little pricey if you eat there a lot and it's only open after 4:00 pm, but it's worth every penny and worth the wait. Bonefish has a separate gluten free menu!

Burton's Grill, a new restaurant in Charlottesville located in the shopping center across from Whole Foods (with the new theater and Trader Joe's), has a large gluten-free menu. It is the first restaurant that I've ever been in that has gluten-free bread and pasta. I had a haddock sandwich, topped with coleslaw and tartar sauce, and it was very good. The service was first rate (I went for lunch on a Friday) and the server was extremely knowledgeable about the menu and gluten-free cooking. He was quick to point out that gluten-free food is prepared in a separate part of the kitchen, away from foods that could cause contamination. Check it out! You won't regret it! Update: I went for a second lunch and asked for a grilled chicken sandwich on gluten-free bread (not on the g-f menu) and it was the BEST chicken sandwich I've ever had. I also got a g-f chocolate torte with vanilla ice cream. Yum! And again, the service was exceptional--knowledgeable, conscientious, professional, and friendly. My new favorite restaurant.

Domino's Pizza, a takeout pizza place that I have thought disgusting on many occasions in the past, including when they put canned tomatoes on my pizza in 2006 (pre-gluten intolerance) and then asked why I expected to have fresh ones, has made a comeback in my estimation. Since I've been able to eat dairy again, I thought I'd try them out since I've not been completely satisfied with my gluten-free pizza crust options. OMG! They've really done something right this time. Their gluten-free crust, unlike most other crusts, is made from potato flour. I've had it a few times now with cheese only (extra cheese please!) and the robust marinara sauce, and I'm very impressed. So impressed, that I doubt I'll ever seek out a gluten-free crust from anywhere else. Mellow Mushroom, although good, doesn't compare. Fry's Spring Station, a loathsome restaurant in Charlottesville with unfriendly, bad service (I was actually asked what I expected by ordering gluten-free when I complained about how awful the pizza was) and dirty tables (the plates were suctioned to the sticky table and the glasses were grimy), is not even in the same ballpark.
  The Flat: Takeaway Crêperie, an awesome place that will create any type of crepe you desire... even a gluten-free, vegan one! Located on Water Street on Charlottesville's downtown mall, the cash-only walk-up vendor aims to please. I had a buckwheat crepe (made with fresh batter) filled with grilled tofu, spinach, green bell pepper, and onion. Obviously, it wasn't as aromatic or as tasty as my friend's ham and cheese, but it was definitely worth the $7.50 I paid and I will absolutely eat there again. The service was outstanding and the portion was huge... almost enough for two.

El Jaripeo, great fajitas and frozen margaritas. I've been to both and received the same friendly service and good food. I prefer the one on Timberwood (at Forest Lakes) just because it is a prettier, newer place. I order the vegetarian fajitas with hard corn taco shells instead of soft tortillas.

Mellow Mushroom, good service, good food, what more can you ask for? I've had a love affair with Mellow Mushroom since I lived across the road from one in Marietta, Georgia. Their bread and crust is heavenly--crisp on the outside, soft and warm on the inside. My all-time favorites are the House Calzone, stuffed with tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, and mozzarella, and the Italian Hoagie, piled high with ham, pepperoni, salami, mozzarella, onions, lettuce, mayo, and bean sprouts. Dip either of these in the house dressing, Esperanza, and you've got a mouth-watering meal! Obviously, I can't eat either of these anymore, but Mellow Mushroom is now offering a gluten-free crust in select locations (to check for your location, go to "Promotions" on the MM website) and they've carried vegan cheese and even vegan proteins, like tempeh and tofu, for a long time.

Result? A very thin, crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle crust that is a damn good substitute when you can't have the real thing. Mine was topped with red sauce, vegan cheese, black olives, spinach, mushrooms, and green bell peppers. The toppings were a little bland, but then again, I'm a seasoning fanatic and coat everything in garlic, Tony's, and oregano. But a little house dressing and voila--problem solved! Obviously, vegan cheese is never going to be like the real thing, but fortunately, MM doesn't coat the pizza like they would if it was mozzarella, so it's a welcome addition. We had the best waitress ever--she made sure we were aware of all the ingredients, as was the kitchen staff. I couldn't have been happier with them and the food. Of course, at $20.75 plus tax, this 12" pizza should be good. That's very pricey for such a small pizza, but thanks to all my food issues, I stopped worrying about the cost of food a long time ago. When you haven't had restaurant pizza in almost two years, $21.00 seems like a fair price to pay. Warning: the crust and the Esperanza dressing contains eggs, and I did suffer a little of a burning throat and esophagus from it, but it was very short-term. I wouldn't eat it every week, but once every few months shouldn't be an issue.

McDonald's, yes, yes, I eat at McDonald's... you want to know why? I love their French fries and hash browns! It's the only place I can pick up a quick snack on the road without spending at least $20. And for the first time in my life, I can eat fries whenever I want and not gain an ounce because I'm not washing them down with a cheeseburger. Think about it... I used to eat at Chipotle, but after an unfortunate bout of food poisoning, I've been unable to return, which is a shame because they have a great vegetable bowl with all-corn tortilla chips.

Now & Zen, located a block off the downtown mall (on Market Street behind Monsoon, across from Fellini's), is my go-to place for lunch or dinner. Not only is the sushi one of the best around these parts (at least my favorite, the Crunch Roll, is!), but the service is top notch and both are always consistent. Vegan options are readily available (try the asparagus and sundried tomato roll) and you can ask for gluten-free tamari to be used in your dish or as a condiment. I

Rapture, located on the historic downtown mall; I've only been at lunch since I work nearby, and my options are limited, but that's probably because I like to order from the menu and not cause a fuss, they are always willing to make sure there is no cross contamination by cooking my shrimp in a skillet instead of on the grill, and they have delicious French fries and yummy salads with unusual toppings, like beets. My typical order is a salad with added shrimp and fries. Rapture probably has the best service of any restaurant in town. I've been there at least 10 times and it's been a great experience every time.

Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar, also located on the downtown mall, but on the opposite end and opposite side from Rapture. The Tea Bazaar is located in the 400 block at a very inconspicuous door immediately beside the door to Eppie's. As you can see from this photo, it's a very unique place.

If you're looking for vegan or vegetarian fare and a unique atmosphere, then this is a decent place for a quick bite to eat. If you're looking for gluten-free, then you should look elsewhere. I ordered the only vegan-gluten free item on the menu, the Zen wrap, and unfortunately, I didn't care for it. It wasn't bad... there was nothing wrong with it, it just wasn't my cup of tea. But it was a lot of food (this photo only shows half!) and a little pricey for the value ($10.31 with tip). I gave it away to a co-worker who I'm sure loved it.

Richmond, VA
La Plaza Azteca has a cool atmosphere and really good food; I always eat vegetable fajitas with corn tortillas or hard shell corn tacos with rice, beans with no cheese, and the table side guacamole. My only complaint is that the avocados aren't chilled, so the guacamole is not cold when it's made at your table, but I'm sure wanting ice cold guac is some strange quirk that only I have! I have gotten poor service on one occasion, but that can happen almost anywhere so I don't consider it the norm. The portions are so large that either my husband and I can split it and take one serving home, or I can take two servings home for later. The salsa isn't great... it has a mild ketchup taste, but I make my own at home so there's no doubt that I'm very picky about that. My favorite location is the Short Pump location in Glen Allen.

This work by Chassity Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License (Virginia Beach, VA, 2011)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Dijon Mustard Chicken Fricassee

So before I get started talking about this delicious recipe, I have to confess that since I've been able to eat chicken and dairy again, I've gained 10 pounds. Of course, if you saw me, you'd tell me to shut up because even after the 10, I still only weigh 110 pounds, but trust me when I say that weight (or lack thereof) is not something I would ever brag about.

Back in early 2011, once I was realized what was causing my extreme digestive issues and I had the appropriate allergy tests done, I cut out all meats (except fish) and any product that had come from meat (eggs, milk, cheese, pudding, etc.), but because it took another year and a half for my stomach to recover from all the damage that meat allergies and a gluten intolerance had done, I continued to have considerable digestive upset from the foods that I could eat. So, I got used to living on black beans and rice because that was the one dish that caused no negative effects. Naturally, I lost weight. At my smallest, I weighed 97 pounds, which is not too terrible for someone 5'1" with tiny bones, but I was down to a size two and people that hugged me exclaimed how tiny I felt. My in-laws worried that I was dying.

All that to say that now that I can eat chicken and dairy again (but not other meats), I'm glorying in it. I have decadent chicken dishes at least twice a week and a weekend is not a weekend without homemade ice cream. 

This recipe certainly tastes decadent, yet it's very easy to pull together and the flavor is like nothing you can identify. 

Dijon Mustard Chicken Fricassee (4 servings)
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp olive oil
1 white onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup Dijon mustard (I use my favorite brand Maille)
1/2 bundle fresh parsley, minced
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup cooking sherry
Seasonings: salt, thyme

1. Combine mustard, 2 tbsp fresh parsley, thyme, and chicken into a gallon Ziploc; toss to coat and then refrigerate overnight
2. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat; meanwhile, remove chicken from the marinade (you can throw the leftover marinade away), add a little salt to each side of the chicken, and once the Dutch oven has heated up, add the chicken
3. Cook chicken for 5 minutes, turn, cook for an additional 5 minutes, and then remove from the pot
4. Add the onion to the pot and cook until almost tender
5. Add the garlic, cook about 2 more minutes, and then add the broth and sherry, turn heat up to a boil and scrape the pan to remove any brown bits from the bottom
6. Once the mixture has reached a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, add a little thyme and parsley, and then add the chicken back to the pot, cover, and cook for 20-25 minutes
7. Remove chicken from the pot, and if there is a lot of liquid left, or if it's very thin, increase the heat to medium up to medium-high, and cook the liquid until it has reduced and thickened
8. Spoon the liquid over the chicken and sprinkle with fresh parsley

This work by Chassity Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License (2013)